In the course of 10 seconds Loyola Sacred Heart saw its nine-point lead vanish to a one-possession game with under 20 seconds remaining against Deer Lodge on Tuesday. The Rams needed a calming presence.
Loyola found it in all-state senior Parker Davis, who drew a foul and knocked down 1 of 2 free throws to ice a 64-60 District 6-B win for the Rams at the Sister Rita Mudd Activity Center.
Davis gathered the ball in Loyola’s half and just waited for Deer Lodge – who had put the Rams in the double bonus – to foul.
“I’ve been in that position before, and you just don’t think about it, you go up and shoot it,” Davis said. “We shoot a lot of free throws in practice – it pays off.”
He made the first, which gave the Rams the breathing room they needed after Davis’ second shot hit the left side of the iron. A scrum for the ball between both teams ate precious seconds off the clock for the Wardens, who finally recovered the board. They couldn’t get a shot off before the final buzzer of the two teams' first conference game.
Davis’ cold-blooded free throw effectively ended a fiery Deer Lodge comeback attempt.
“It’s huge to have a kid out there with some experience. He has those calm nerves and he’s been there before, so that’s absolutely huge to have a kid like that out there,” Loyola coach Eddie Stack said.
The Rams built a 63-54 lead with 1:08 remaining in the game before Deer Lodge’s desperation run nearly closed the gap. Loyola’s Jack Lincoln connected on another crisp pass from the arc – one of several dimes on the night – to Ryan McHugh for two, giving Loyola the nine-point advantage.
Lincoln finished with 10 points and a handful of assists.
“He absolutely passes the ball well and then handles the ball out there well. We’re excited to have him for a couple more years because he’s going to be quite the player,” Stack said of his sophomore wing.
With 25 seconds left, though, Deer Lodge corralled on offensive rebound and dished out to senior Cade Benjamin. The point guard passed up an OK shot to give Dyllon McDermid a wide open 3-pointer. McDermid obliged by canning the trey to make it 63-57.
On the ensuing inbounds, Benjamin stole the ball from the Rams and this time found Brock Doiron who hit the 3-pointer with under 20 seconds to play. It was Doiron’s fourth trey of the game, all four coming in the second half. He finished with 12 points.
“We started from the tip-off and shot 0-for-20 from the three – we were bound to get going,” Deer Lodge coach Dakota Norris deadpanned. “(Doiron’s) been a great shooter for us all year and we just kept telling him, ‘they’re going to start going in.’
“…He found a little weak spot in the zone and our point guard did a good job feeding him.”
Loyola was able to beat the press the next time around, ultimately getting the ball to Davis. The Rams’ forward finished with a game-high 21 points, none bigger than his final free throw.
Early in the fourth, Davis single-handedly put Loyola on a 6-0 run to give Loyola its biggest lead of the night, 54-41 with six minutes remaining. The senior hit a 3-pointer in the corner to cap the run.
Benjamin, who scored 14 points for Deer Lodge and had the ball in his hands all night, answered on the next possession with a 3-pointer of his own to bring it back to 10, 54-44.
The two teams traded buckets before Doiron made one from behind the arc to cut it to seven, 56-49. A Lincoln free-throw and a David Koppang layup again made it a 10-point game again before Doiron hit his second trey of the quarter, making it 59-52.
Then the Wardens forced a steal and passed to post Brandon Porter in transition. Porter, who had a team-high 17 points, finished at the rim.
Davis made a free throw on the next Loyola possession and then Lincoln connected with McHugh before a close game got even crazier near the finish line.
Overall the teams shared or traded the lead six times. The Rams took the lead for good in the second quarter, 24-22 on a long bounce pass to Fisher Richardson who made the basket and got the foul.
Loyola’s lead was tenuous, though – Deer Lodge cut the lead to one possession five times the rest of the way – but the Rams held.
“You’d love to see that thing, if you’re at (an 8-point lead), shoot up to 10 or 12 points instead of going down to four,” Stack said. “…We really hope we can improve on (finishing games) going down the stretch of the season.”
With the win, Loyola improved to 1-0 in conference, 2-1 overall. Deer Lodge, which was without senior guard Colter Scully, fell to 0-1, 0-3 overall. Coach Norris expects Scully back for his team’s next game against St. Ignatius on Thursday.
Loyola draws its rival Florence on Thursday in a doubleheader with the girls. The Breakers play the Falcons in Florence at 6:30 p.m. The Rams take the court after at 8 p.m.